Article and Photos By Zach Lazzari
Nevada’s Pyramid Lake and the giant cutthroats that swim there are no secret. A 10 pound fish was the magical mark for anglers until recently when the native Pilot Peak strain was discovered and re-introduced to the large, alkaline lake. Now 10-pounds is common and fish topping 20-pounds are landed each year. It’s possible that the historic 40-pound mark will latch on a fly at some point.
I was raised in Reno and have taken the standard rigging tactics used at Pyramid to lakes around the world and fished them successfully. Fishing this lake effectively is all about the rigging, depth management and retrieves. Fly selection is surprisingly simple and the guy hooked up more than everyone down the line of ladders is typically doing so because he is hitting a sweet spot. A few feet of sink rate can make all the difference here. Of course this is Nevada and some people are just luckier than others.
8 Weight Fly Rod with a Sink Tip
November, December and January often call for a stout 8-weight fly rod and a heavy sink tip fly line. Focus on the beaches with steep drop offs and get your flies down in a hurry. A common setup is a 250-280 grain tip at 15-20 feet. I’ve been overloading an 8-weight with a 24 foot, 325 grain tip and it’s making a difference. Working drop-offs with a heavy sink tip is a great technique on any cold stillwater with prominent ledges and drop offs. I’ve used the same technique in Patagonia and the Rocky Mountain region equally well. A simple bugger combined with a Popcorn Beetle is deadly. The Mystic Tremor is a perfect fit for slinging the overweight sink tip. It has a slight longer build at 9’ 3”, making it easier to load the long tip and extend your reach while wading waist deep water. The saltwater components are also better suited to the harsh Alkaline conditions here.
7 Weight Fly Rod with a Sink Tip
When the fish are in close but still running a little deep, I love a 7-weight fly rod with a 220-250 grain tip. A little shorter on this one is fine and my current compact Cortland sinking line is great on the flats. It will get down over the ledges but has a nice, even pull over the knee to waist deep flats as well. When fish start moving closer in February and March, this rig is a winner. It also has wide ranging applications and I use mine with larger streamers from a drift boat and on stillwaters where a moderate to fast sink rate is a good fit. The same beetle and bugger combination works on this rig as well. A bugger and chironomid is another good combination.
6-7 Weight Fly Rod with a Floating Line
Lastly, a floating line is perfect for working chironomids and nymph patterns. Fishing under a bobber is both popular and effective but fishing with your hands and varying the retrieve until you find the perfect speed is more rewarding. The grab is also more exciting while you have direct contact with the fly. I fish straight 10-12 pound test with a size 8-10 chironomid. Zebra is my favorite but most common color combinations work just fine. A singly chironomid or double is a good route. The 6-weight fly rod is nice on calm days but is a little underpowered in the wind. A 7-weight is also better suited for a really large fish that might top the 20-pound mark.Zach Lazzari is a fly fishing guide and an outdoor writer based in Montana. Zach has fished and guided in Alaska, Colorado and Patagonia. Zach is also the blogger behind The Busted Oarlock.